Thursday, May 23, 2024

Pesticide Chlormequat Detected in Popular Oat-Based Foods

HomeHealthPesticide Chlormequat Detected in Popular Oat-Based Foods

NEW YORK – A new study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has revealed alarming findings about a little-known pesticide that has been detected in the bodies of the majority of Americans. The chemical in question, chlormequat, has been linked to reproductive issues and developmental problems in animal studies, raising concerns about its potential impact on human health.

The EWG’s groundbreaking research, published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, tested urine samples from 96 people across the United States between 2017 and 2023. The results were startling: chlormequat was found in the urine of 77 out of the 96 individuals tested, or 80% of the participants.

Chlormequat is a plant growth regulator used primarily on wheat, oats, and barley crops to prevent the stems from bending over, making harvesting easier. While its use is not permitted on food crops grown within the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed the importation of foods treated with chlormequat since 2018, increasing the allowed levels in 2020.

The EWG’s study found that the number of people exposed to chlormequat, as well as the concentrations detected, have increased in recent years. In 2023, 90% of the participants tested positive for the chemical, compared to 69% in 2017 and 74% between 2018 and 2022.

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“The ubiquity of this little-studied pesticide in people raises alarm bells about how it could potentially cause harm without anyone even knowing they’ve consumed it,” said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., EWG Toxicologist and lead author of the study.

The concerns surrounding chlormequat stem from animal studies that have linked the chemical to reproductive issues and disruptions in fetal growth. These studies have shown that chlormequat can damage the reproductive system, alter bone and head development, and interfere with key metabolic processes in animals. While these findings have not been replicated in human studies, they raise questions about the potential impact of chlormequat on human health.

To further investigate the sources of exposure, the EWG tested a range of oat-based and wheat-based foods for the presence of chlormequat. The results were alarming: 92% of non-organic oat-based foods, including popular brands such as Quaker Oats and Cheerios, tested positive for chlormequat. In contrast, only one out of seven organic oat-based samples contained low levels of the chemical, suggesting that choosing organic products can significantly reduce exposure.

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“The federal government has a vital role in ensuring that pesticides are adequately monitored, studied, and regulated,” Temkin emphasized. “Yet the EPA continues to abdicate its responsibility to protect children from the potential health harms of toxic chemicals like chlormequat in food.”

In response to the findings, the EWG has called on the federal government to take action. The organization urges the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin testing foods for chlormequat and requests that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) add the chemical to its biomonitoring program. Additionally, the EWG advocates for more research on the effects of chlormequat on human health.

Despite the concerning findings, major oat-based food manufacturers have not issued statements addressing the presence of chlormequat in their products. General Mills, which manufactures Cheerios, stated, “All our products adhere to all regulatory requirements. Food safety is always our top priority at General Mills, and we take care to ensure our food is prepared and packaged in the safest way possible.” Quaker Oats, a division of PepsiCo, did not respond to requests for comment.

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The EWG’s study highlights the importance of consumer awareness and the need for stricter regulations surrounding the use of pesticides in food production. While the long-term effects of chlormequat on human health are still being studied, the widespread exposure to this chemical raises concerns, particularly given its links to reproductive and developmental issues in animal studies.

As the debate around chlormequat continues, consumers can take steps to reduce their exposure by opting for organic oat-based products, which are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides like chlormequat. The EWG also encourages individuals to join their calls for the EPA to abandon its proposal to allow the use of chlormequat on crops grown within the United States.

It is crucial that regulatory bodies, food manufacturers, and the public work together to address the potential risks associated with pesticides in our food supply. By raising awareness, conducting further research, and implementing stricter regulations, we can strive to protect the health of individuals and future generations from the potential harms of toxic chemicals like chlormequat.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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